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Jobs That Pay Well Without a College Degree

I enjoy using my 30 years in the business world to write about how to advance one's career and create the best job opportunities.

Solar panels need to be hooked up to a building’s electrical system, which is a job for solar installers.

Solar panels need to be hooked up to a building’s electrical system, which is a job for solar installers.

Looking for Jobs That Pay Well Without a College Degree?

There are many jobs that pay well without a college degree. While having a college degree makes it easier to get an office job, there are many skilled craftsmen and other types of jobs that pay quite well without a college degree. In fact, many of these jobs pay between $40,000 and $100,000 or more once one becomes established in their profession.

You may have to learn a trade skill and put in several years of work before you can land the jobs that pay well in your chosen profession, but the work you do early on is well worthwhile in the long run if you want to be successful.

This is certainly not a complete list of these well-paying jobs that are available that do not require a college degree, but it provides what you need to get your mind thinking about what jobs might be worth pursuing. Feel free to share any ideas regarding additional jobs that pay well without a college degree in the comments section below.

Keep in mind that the average person will work approximately 2,000 hours per year. As a benchmark, when you see a job that pays $50 per hour, it equates to $100,000 in gross earnings per year when 2,000 work hours per year are factored in.

An oil field worker at work on the plains of Canada

An oil field worker at work on the plains of Canada

Outdoor and Manual Jobs That Pay Well Without a College Degree

The following is a sampling of jobs that pay well without a college degree for people who do not mind working outdoors or getting their hands dirty.

  1. Oil field worker: This could include a lot of jobs that are connected to the exploration and production of oil or natural gas. Many of these jobs are in remote areas and may involve extended stays away from loved ones. But they tend to pay quite well, many between $50,000 and $100,000 per year and are well suited for people who like to get paid well to work outdoors in a physically demanding job.
  2. Handyman: Being a handyman can be quite a lucrative job if you are good at fixing things and doing small jobs. People have a lot of things that need to be fixed and are willing to pay $25 to $50 per hour for a handyman to take their problems off of their hands. You can build a client base and gain steady work from your existing clients and referrals. You just need to take the time to learn the tricks of the trade and make sure you do not promise clients more than you can deliver.
  3. Carpenter: Carpentry has been a profession for thousands of years. It is just as in demand today as it was thousands of years ago. A good carpenter can make between $30 and $50 per hour working for individual clients or on construction projects. In most areas, no license is required to be a carpenter; however, you may need a home improvement contractor license. Taking some courses in carpentry and being an apprentice to an experienced carpenter is a good way to break into the profession.
  4. Plumber: Plumbers earn good money, in the $40 per hour range, once a Plumber’s license has been obtained. Plumbers can earn even more per hour if they work for themselves. You will have to settle for a lower pay rate while you work as an apprentice and work towards getting your plumber’s license. But, once your plumber’s license is in hand, you can earn a handsome living.
  5. Welder: A seasoned welder can earn $50 per hour plying his trade. There is a lot of welding work to be done from building construction to renovations to demolitions. A welder can earn a good living once they have established themselves in the trade.
  6. Electrician: Anyone who wants to be an electrician needs to work as an apprentice under a licensed electrician for two years before earning their initial Electrician’s license. During the apprenticeship, you will not only learn all about how to wire things, but you will also be paid a modest hourly rate while you learn. Once you have your electrician’s license, your rate will increase to perhaps as high as $50 per hour. You can increase your pay rate to higher levels by starting your own business.
  7. Tile Setter: Skilled craftsmen who tile bathrooms, kitchens, general rooms, and patios are in demand and are paid well for their tiling skills. A good tile setter can make $20 or more per hour.
  8. General contractor: Establishing yourself as a competent general contractor for home construction projects can earn you a lucrative living. It can be quite challenging, as you manage and coordinate skilled tradesmen, like carpenters and plumbers, but it is also quite financially rewarding. A general contractor typically earns 15% of the total home construction cost. On a $250,000 home, that is over $37,000. Do three of them per year, and you can make more $100,000 annually.
  9. Mechanic: Think about how much it costs you per hour in labor when you get your car fixed. There are a lot of overhead costs that an automobile garage has to cover. But, even after overhead is accounted for, you should be able to clear $100,000 or more per year once you gain a reputation as a reliable and honest mechanic.
  10. Surveyor: A property surveyor is the person you see along the side of the road or walking along a property wearing an orange vest and carrying a strange tripod piece of equipment. Property surveyors make between $40,000 to $60,000 per year, based on their amount of experience.
  11. House painting company owner: Since house painting is something that requires a team of painters to paint a house in a timely manner, being a house Painter will pay well if you start a painting business and hire painters to work for you. House painters themselves do not make a lot of money, but the owner of a house painting business can do quite well if they earn a good reputation as a company that delivers on what they promise. $100,000 per year net profit is not an unreasonable expectation for an established house painting business.
  12. Landscaping company owner: Landscaping is another profession that is a team effort. Owning a landscape company is the best way to make a decent living in this field, with prospects for making $100,000 per year in pricey parts of the country. Of course, you will have to learn a lot about plants and how to landscape. The beauty of this business is that you can take it in any direction you want to take it. You can keep it simple and just cut grass and trim bushes, or you can get into designing and building outdoor patios and living spaces.
  13. Solar installer: Licensed electricians are well qualified to work as solar installers. Solar panels need to be hooked up to a building’s electrical system, so a licensed electrician is perfectly suited to perform a solar installation project. While licensing is not required to install solar panels, obtaining a license from The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) will increase your chances of winning solar installation work. Solar Installers typically make more than $40,000 per year.
  14. Solar installation company owner: Solar is one of the hottest fields in construction today. Rising grid electricity costs and falling solar equipment costs are making solar power more cost-competitive each year, which is causing an explosion in solar installations. The owner of a solar installation company with solar Installers working under them can earn $100,000 per year if they gain a good reputation in the area in which they operate.

Indoor Jobs That Pay Well Without a College Degree

The following is a sampling of jobs that pay well without a college degree for people who would rather do their work in an indoor environment. Some of them require a technical background of one type or another, which you can learn through a combination of online courses and on-the-job training and experience.

  1. Computer technical support specialist: A computer technical support specialist is someone who does hands-on work to set up a computer network and keep it running for users. Jobs in this field require a high level of proficiency in computer networking support rather than a college degree, and typically pay between $30,000 and $65,000 per year, based on experience and job location.
  2. Database administrator: A database administrator maintains and supports databases that contain a company’s business information. Working knowledge of administering databases is all that most employers are looking for. This can be a daunting task, but it pays well, in the range of $40,000 to over $100,000 per year, based on experience and job location.
  3. Data scientist assistant: While a data scientist position requires an advanced degree, a data scientist assistant that supports a data scientist does not necessarily need a degree. Data science is one of the hottest careers. All that data in databases and on the Internet needs to be studied and sorted, so it can be used in the real world. A data scientist assistant job should pay between $30,000 and $50,000 per year.
  4. Web developer: A web developer is a catch-all term for a person who develops websites. This can include a wide range of job skills from creative design to computer programming to writing. This position averages $54,000 per year. The higher the skill set, the better the pay.
  5. Software technical support specialist: A software technical support specialist is a catch-all term that describes a person who makes their living supporting any type of software platform that people use. It could be a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software platform like SalesForce or a website and blogging platforms like WordPress. Once you become proficient in the installation, use, and repair of a widely used software platform, you can charge clients for your expertise. The pay ranges anywhere from $50,000 to over $100,000 per year, depending upon your experience and client base.
  6. Search engine optimization (SEO) specialist: A search engine optimization Specialist is a person who has become an expert in search engine optimization (SEO). This is a specialty that is in high demand because website owners have a strong incentive to do whatever they can to increase their website’s ranking in search engines. Pay varies from $30,000 to $60,000 per year, depending upon your experience and how many clients you can support.
  7. Online marketing manager: An online marketing manager works closely with the sales, marketing, and web development departments to coordinate and implement an online advertising campaign for a company. Online advertising is the fastest segment of the advertising industry, so the demand for this position is growing. Salaries vary widely from $30,000 to $90,000 per year, depending upon experience and the company one works for.
  8. Paralegal: A paralegal assists lawyers with legal research and documents. This job is well suited for someone who has an interest in the field of law. Just be ready to work long hours, as lawyers are known to work 50+ hour weeks. A degree is not required, but paralegal certification may be necessary. Paralegals typically earn $30,000 to $65,000 per year.
  9. Translator: A translator can work in many different capacities translating many different languages. If you are proficient in two or more languages, you may have a career opportunity as a translator. This could include translating written materials, meetings, or even working online with people around the world that are trying to communicate. Translators often work on an hourly basis, but there are also salary positions. Over the course of a year, a translator can expect to make anywhere from $25,000 to $85,000. This wide range of pay is due to the wide variety of translator jobs and the varying demands for specific translator skills.
  10. Stenographer: A stenographer is also known as a court reporter, which is a person who types a record of court proceedings. This pay associated with this position varies widely, from $25,000 to $95,000 per year, depending upon experience and your work location.

A Little Advice About Starting a Business Without a College Degree

Here is an important word of advice for anyone considering starting their own business once becoming established in one of these hands-on trades. Government studies indicate that 50% of new businesses fail within the first five years. Operate a successful business that will stay in business by keeping your customers as your primary focus.

The public does not like contractors that fail to return phone calls, do not provide clear estimates, low-bid jobs only to change the price later, and generally act in an unprofessional manner. Simple things like returning phone calls promptly, providing clear estimates that you can stick by, and treating the customer with respect will go a long way in distinguishing yourself from your competition. This will result in referrals and future business from happy customers and dramatically increase the chances for your business to ultimately be a successful and profitable venture.

Do Not Let Not Having a College Degree Hold You Back From Making Money

Even if you have a college degree, it may be worthwhile to consider jobs that pay well without a college degree if those jobs are going to pay you better than your current job that requires a college degree pays you. Do not let your earnings or career aspirations be held back just because certain jobs do not require a college degree.

This is not to disparage the value of getting a college education because, in many fields, a college degree is critical, especially if you want to advance to higher levels. Just keep your mind open to the possibilities in the realm of jobs that do not require a college degree, because there are some true gems out there.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2015 John Coviello


Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on January 30, 2016:

I was drawn to your article title. Most of the jobs at the beginning of your article are all done by illegal emigrants because local people charge for more in South Africa. That has become a huge problem for local tradesmen, but for us pensioners its very easy to employ a plummer,painter, bricklayer or even a carpenter , but most of these people are from Zimbabwe, Malawi or further away in Africa and they can only work illegal. The result is that employers abuse them by paying less, which is criminal. We have several tradesman from Zimbabwe and Malawi on our list because we worked with them and we trust their expertise, so they are always in demand.Often people come to us asking if we know of a good handyman, but we make sure that the person in question is prepared to pay a fair daily rate. The only trade that illegal emigrants seem to start of with if they arrive in SA is, they all say they are gardeners, but they most of the time know nothing about gardening. A good gardener is worth a lot, and they are mostly offered full time jobs in a plant nursery. I remember starting a new guy from Malawi, he was tall and handsome and worked very well and fast, until one day when we drove him back to the station we asked what he use to do in Malawi. He said that he is an electrician by trade, but cannot work in SA without a work permit, and he also can fix laptops.

We were surprised and gave him a dead laptop. We had nothing to loose. Guess what.

The following week when he came to work in the garden he came back with a fully operating laptop! He asked R200.- which is what he earns as a daily rate as a gardener.

The next project he tackled for us was unplanned. We had a new hob installed in our new kitchen but the World Pool technicians could not get it to work. They told us we needed to get an electrician out because they blamed it on our main board.

It was the day we had our gardener working at the top of our property, so we asked him to have a look. Well to cut a long story short, he fixed it. One other time while he was working for us in the garden our car wold not start, by this time we were used to call him and low and behold, he did something with wires so we could drive temporary while he took our starter motor to a friend of his in the nearest location...

For a lot less our car was repaired, and we are still driving it 3 years


We helped him paying for a work permit and today he drives his own car and has a clientele of note.

People who are good at what they do and are reliable will always be in demand.

Nice hub...

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 11, 2015:

I love your subheading that says "don't let a college degree keep you from making money." Funny and very true. When I was a teacher I encouraged many kids to go to trade school rather than college. There is money to be made in the trades, as you pointed out. By the way, you look a lot like an actor on the tv series Night Shift. :)

kjforce from Florida on April 23, 2015:

Your article hopefully will be read by many who will share. The only thing missing ( not a negative ) was a desire ..If you want anything in Life, you must put forth an effort and never lose sight of your dream.

You did an awesome job..keep it up..voted and shared

Elena from London, UK on April 14, 2015:

Very inspiring. Not having a College Degree does not equate an unsuccessful life. In fact, with a lovely personality, (which is a magnet to customers) the jobs you note above will get people far in life and they can study part-time later if they choose to or just carry on and make a business of it.

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on April 13, 2015:

Very interesting and helpful for the ones of us who went to work instead of to college. As women, many opportunities are being expressed.

FreeHelpForFelons on March 31, 2015:

10 stars good stuff

Robert on March 31, 2015:

This is a really good blog thanks for making this.

Suzie from Carson City on March 04, 2015:

John....GREAT hub! You really did some terrific research and presented very useful information. You are 100% correct. There are plenty of very well-paying jobs that do not require a degree.

So many people have natural talent in a certain field or perhaps a skill that required a training course and/or certification. Scoring high on Civil Service exams is a foot in the door to numerous high-paying positions, certainly after a few years on the job.

With the outrageous cost of college and people now realizing that it takes years to pay off debt from education, you have done a valuable service to your readers with this useful hub. UP+++tweeted.